Connect With Us
YouTube
RSS

36 posts categorized "author-Derrick Feldmann"

What We Learned From Our End-of-Year Fundraising Appeals

February 14, 2017

Year-end-fundraisingWe all know how important the final few months of the year are for nonprofits, many of which see up to 40 percent of their total yearly contributions come in between Thanksgiving and December 31. No surprise, then, that year after year I see nonprofits rushing to get their year-end campaigns out the door and into the hands (and in boxes) of donors. And every year, that mad, crazed rush makes me think of something Benjamin Franklin said: "You may delay, but time will not."

Most of us start each new year with the best of intentions and, if we happen to be in the fundraising game, the goal of starting our various campaigns early. But like a lot of things, especially during the busy holiday season, we often leave the necessary preparation to the last minute and, with time running out, end up falling back on what we've done in the past.

But now that the holidays are behind us and the data have been tallied, it's time to take a look at what worked, what didn't, and how we can improve. As an organization leader, you should start by asking some questions. Are our mailing lists out of date? Have we updated our messaging and graphics in the last few years? Have we tested out any new messaging? Are we getting donors to see the important role they play in the work we do? All are important questions — not just with respect to your year-end campaigns, but for your fundraising throughout the year.

Last year, my colleagues and I sent out more than 250,000 direct mail and email solicitations on behalf of clients. And even though the organizations we worked with had strong year-end results, we noticed a few trends that underscore how important year-end appeals are for nonprofits. With that in mind, here are five things, based on what we learned, that your organization can do to ensure year-end success in 2017:

Continue reading »

Nonprofits! You Are Not the (Only) Gatekeeper for Your Issue!

December 16, 2016

GatekeeperLast month my mother called to tell me about a neighbor who had just been diagnosed with cancer. She talked about how sad the news made her, and told me the town was really coming together to do something for one of its own. In fact, local town leaders had already decided to organize a fundraiser for our friend.

While we were talking, my mother decided to check out the online fundraising page that had been set up. It didn't take long for me to realize that something was bothering her. "Mom?" I prompted.

"I thought we were being asked to donate to the local cancer society," she replied. "I'd feel a whole lot better if I knew something about the national organization or where my money was going."

Her comment was interesting, in a number of ways. It suggested, first of all, that my mother is more motivated to give when she knows her donation will be used to support a cause close to home and/or understands how her donation will be used. But as we kept chatting, I realized that what she really wanted was to do something for our neighbor directly and in a way that helped our neighbor and her family in their hour of need.

Understanding that way of thinking and, more broadly, what motivates people to engage with a cause — your cause — is critically important if your nonprofit hopes to gain the support of donors and grow that support over time. And while, obviously, my mother is not a millennial, her comment illustrates a mindset related to cause behaviors that, in our research on millennials (see the Millennial Impact Report), we've encountered quite a bit. Indeed, as we conduct that research, we continually ask ourselves, What are the factors that influence (or discourage) millennial donors to support a cause or organization?

Continue reading »

How Associations Can Overcome Fundraising Barriers

October 27, 2016

Give_chalkboardOver the last three months, I've had conversations with four associations about their approach to raising money. The conversations usually touch on many of the same points:

"We're an association and are struggling to raise additional funds from our members."

 "We think it's because a lot of our members may not fully understand what we do and why we need to raise money from them."

 "We've seen a decline in our membership and have had to restate our membership levels."

"We are trying to figure out how we can offer our members giving opportunities as an alternative to membership dues."

 "We're not sure we are relevant anymore. People are spending less time with our content even though it's really good. Our members tell us that's what they want, but in the end they don't follow through."

"What should we do? Do we have a fundraising or a membership problem?"

If you work for an association, I suspect you've had similar conversations with your colleagues.

Before I share with you the advice I give to my association clients, I want to first discuss a major challenge that, in today's competitive fundraising environment, most associations face.

Content Is King — and There's a Lot of It

You have the best newsletter out there. You've established rigorous business rules to ensure you get the right professional development content to your members in the right format and at the appropriate time. But no one is consuming it. Not that your members don't find it valuable — it's more that they can't find it. Let's be honest: there's an abundance of content and information out there, good and bad. And, to make matters worse, associations today have lots of new competitors for the attention of their members — consultants and thought leaders who are creating their own content and targeting it to your members. What does it all mean? It means your members are in the driver's seat when it comes to deciding what is good and what is not, what is useful and what is not. It also means that many associations are scrambling to learn as quickly as they can how they can make their content stand out in a very crowded environment.

Continue reading »

Linking Challenge to Opportunity to Strategy

October 07, 2016

Link-Building-IconMost of us dread the annual strategic planning process. It's a daunting task to have to stop and think about the future when your days are already super busy with the work you do for your organization's clients and beneficiaries.

Then there's the fact that the plan itself can be a document that inspires and creates a visionary context for an organization, or, as I've seen lately, a series of work plans detailing what the organization is going to do over the next few years and how it's going to do it.

Regardless of which approach your organization takes, here are a few things to think about as you and your colleagues sit down to develop your next strategic plan:

  • Your supporters really don't care how the ship runs; they care about what your organization is doing to help people and advance its cause.
  • Your supporters don't want to know about how you're going to boost the reach and impact of your communications. From their perspective, you should be doing that anyway. They do care about what lies ahead for the organization, and what they can do to help make change happen.
  • Your supporters want to believe your plan will get more people like them to support your cause or issue. They want to be assured you have a handle on your overall strategy and the tactics needed to implement it. And they want to be reminded why they are important to your organization's success.

The points above underscore the important role individual supporters play in the change process. I hope they also convey a sense of the linkage that is often missing from strategic plans: challenge begets opportunity begets strategy.

Creating a "Challenge" Narrative for Supporters

It is crucial that supporters feel compelled to act by your challenge narrative. And the hardest part of that is making sure it conveys enough urgency to cause potential supporters to say, "Wow, I need to step up and do something." Your narrative should do two things:

Continue reading »

How to Get the Public Behind Your Cause

August 29, 2016

Cooptition_illustrationIf you've followed me on this blog or through my series of articles here, you're familiar with my take on the need to move potential supporters from mere interest to deep engagement with your cause over time. There are lots of people out there who want to do good, who stand up for what is right, and who even devote most of their time to organizing others, but in general nonprofits are not doing all they could to tap into that interest and energy.

If you're a nonprofit executive, what can you do to get the public involved in your issue or cause? Are you talking to the right people, the people most likely to become an advocate for your organization?

I was asked this question recently by a reporter who wanted to know why why so many legacy nonprofits (that is, those that have been around a while) struggle to stay relevant and keep the interest of their donors and supporters. Her sense was that younger people don't really connect with legacy organizations because of the way those organizations raise money or talk about what they do, and that the public in general isn't interested in the work of these nonprofits because of a perception that they long ago stopped caring about the public and instead focus most of their efforts on high-net-worth donors.

While those assumptions may have some basis in reality, my answer wasn't what the reporter was expecting.

Really great nonprofit executives today, I said, those who succeed at getting the public engaged in their cause, tend to focus their time and energy on four key stakeholder groups: people who can tell their organization's story, people who are innovating in their organization's space/issue area, people who organize and bring others to their issue, and people who challenge the way their organization approaches an issue. In many cases, nonprofits that have lost the attention of John and Jane Q. Public may have focused on these groups in the past, but somewhere along the way they fell out of  the habit or simply forgot why John and Jane are important. Does that sound like your nonprofit?

To truly get the public to move from interest to engagement to action, nonprofits need to create intentional conversations and, where possible, actual partnerships with these key stakeholder groups. Here's how:

Continue reading »

How to Talk to Your Donors About Funding Outreach and Awareness

July 22, 2016

Money-tree-symbol-Stock-Vector-familyWhy is it that fundraising for specific programs comes so easily to nonprofit professionals, yet asking for money to boost marketing or fundraising activities makes our palms sweat?

Professional fundraisers like Dan Pallotta have done much to call out this mindset. In no uncertain terms, Pallotta and others have argued that by not asking funders to invest in their fundraising and marketing activities, nonprofits undermine their ability to generate the kinds of dollars and awareness they need to solve our most pressing problems.

There are several reasons for this. One of the most persistent has to do with boards choosing to focus exclusively on programming and dismissing investments in marketing and fundraising capacity as unwarranted spending on "overhead." Goals involving income, whether donated or earned, are given short shrift. The general attitude is: "Let's see what we can do with our existing marketing/fundraising budget."

This is just wrong. Regardless of how well-intentioned it might be, a board simply can't insist that you generate greater awareness of your cause — not to mention impact — and then do nothing about it.

What are board members in that situation thinking? Are they afraid donors will run for the exits if they're asked to fund something other than programs? Really? Donors deserve more credit than that. They want the same thing we want: to be able to sit down with friends and family and say: "This cause and the work this organization is doing is important to me."

Like most of us, they want the issues they care about to go viral, generating as much awareness and attention as possible. That's because they know it will take more — a lot more — than their gift or donation to truly make a difference. And that's why a growing number of them are ready to put their dollars behind truly creative fundraising and marketing efforts.

We need to stop being bashful about funding the marketing and fundraising efforts needed to make the public aware of our work. We need to lean in to these conversations — and not be reticent when a donor asks about awareness, fundraising, or marketing.

What does that sound like?

Continue reading »

Millennials and the Presidential Election Cycle: Does Cause Engagement Change in an Election Year?

June 21, 2016

Patriotic-thumbs-up-buttonFew things in the life of our nation serve to heighten awareness of particular social issues and causes more than a presidential election cycle. And given the historic (and boisterous) nature of this particular cycle, my research team and I wanted to understand how – if at all – millennials' philanthropic interests and engagement might change in response to the campaigns mounted by various major-party candidates, and whether these changes were influenced by demographic factors such as gender, age, and political ideology.

Our research has consistently shown that millennials value cause-related work and make a point of engaging with causes that align with their interests. At the same time, the research we've conducted to date in 2016 shows that millennials are more likely to passively engage with a cause – for example, signing a petition – than actively engage through volunteering, participating in a demonstration, or making a donation.

Indeed, although three out of four (76 percent) millennial respondents in the first phase of our study believe they can help to affect change on a social issue in which they're interested, only one out of two (50 percent) had volunteered for and/or donated to a cause aligned with an issue they care about in the past month. Our research also uncovered that, to date, slightly more than half had supported a community project (defined as any kind of cause work that addresses the shared concerns of members of a defined community) aligned with a cause they're interested in, while only one in three had participated in a demonstration (i.e., a rally, protest, boycott, or march) in the past month.

In contrast, two out of three millennial respondents indicated they had signed a petition related to an issue they care about in the past month.

Cause Engagement by Gender

When looking at cause engagement by gender, the first wave of our 2016 research (March to May 2016) found that male millennial respondents are more engaged in cause participation of all types (volunteering, donating, supporting community projects, participating in demonstrations, signing petitions) during this presidential election year than are female millennial respondents.

Continue reading »

Time to Honor the Fearless Donor

May 27, 2016

Regular-Charity-DonorsToo often – I've been guilty of this, too – fundraisers focus excessively on the acquisition of the new donor. We spend a lot of time and resources crafting the right message, testing potential activation strategies, and building engagement programs in hopes of growing our base of supporters.

The problem is that we get so busy trying to build our supporter base with new donors that we tend to overlook the individuals who are already invested in our cause.

I recently had lunch with a friend who shared an anecdote about the time he stood up in front of a roomful of people to promote a cause in which he believed passionately. It was clear as he was telling me that it was a memory he would not soon forget. This is what he said:

"I remember the first time I shared in public that this was a cause I supported. You know, it's not easy to stand up in front of other people and tell them you believe in something. It shouldn't be a big deal, but it isn't something I do. I had to conquer my fear of telling others I care about something, knowing they might not feel the same way. I had to get over the fact that others might not care as much as I did. It's not part of my personality to wear my emotions on my sleeve, and standing up in front of that roomful of people was a pretty big deal for me...."

As nonprofit leaders and fundraisers, we tend to move on after a donor has given time, money, or skills in support of our cause. And we tend to overlook the many reasons the donor may have had not to support our cause. We similarly forget that although it may come naturally to some people to stand up and articulate their support for an issue or cause, not everyone is wired that way.

So, if you're engaged in nonprofit fundraising and marketing, here are a few things to "remember" as you go about your work:

Continue reading »

5 Steps to Help Turn Interest Into Action

April 29, 2016

Steps-to-successHere's a situation: A few hundred people, maybe more, start acting like they care about what you do, decide to follow you on social media, and/or sign up for your email list. But when it comes to needing them to actually take action for your cause, they pretty much disappear.

Sound familiar?

It's a scenario I hear a lot from frustrated fundraisers and nonprofit marketers who struggle to convert fans and followers of their organizations into supporters and champions. In part, that's because the idea of "doing good" has never been more popular. But actually doing something to make a difference is a different story.

What can you do you to change this dynamic?

First, let's take a step back and examine the way the average person engages with a cause he or she cares about.

Because humans are inherently empathetic, when we see suffering, injustice, or an opportunity to make a difference, our brain tells us to do something. That doesn't necessarily mean, however, that we're ready to go all in for the cause. Instead, most of us will opt for a lower-cost option like signing up for a newsletter, following an organization on social media, or signing a petition. These kinds of "actions" satisfy our impulse to do something without committing us to do more (like making a donation or volunteering our time).

When we opt for this kind of low-level, low-cost action, we are signaling to people or an organization working to address a cause that it's okay to communicate with us. As a result, the development and marketing folks at the organization will begin to send us information about the organization, fundraising solicitations, and even requests to volunteer or organize an event or activity.

Continue reading »

The Importance of ‘Opportunity’ When Appealing to Donors

March 24, 2016

Opportunity_nametagRecently, I received the following in a direct-mail solicitation from an organization seeking my support:

In the past year, we have paired 300 kids with the mentors they need to be successful. Now we are calling on you to help us make sure it happens again....

Almost immediately, I asked myself, Is this the best way to start a solicitation? Does it convey anything remarkable? Am I really crucial to the organization’s impact equation? And what is the real "ask" here?

Clearly, what the organization wants is my support. It says so right there in the second sentence. But is it something I'm likely to give?

Beyond the appeal to emotions, whether someone gives or not tends to be driven by the simplest of equations: Is this worth stopping what I'm doing, grabbing my credit card, filling out the pledge form, putting a stamp on the envelope, and making a trip to the mailbox?

In too many instances, the answer to that question is "no." While the typical solicitation often includes language from an organization's mission and values statements, it rarely appeals to potential supporters with a unique and compelling proposition.

The solicitation is your opportunity to motivate potential supporters to make a difference. And it's their opportunity to do something to contribute to a cause they believe in. Through a combination of the right words and a well-calibrated appeal to the emotions, it should move them from indifference to action and beyond.

Here are a few examples of the kind of language that works well when presenting your "ask":

Continue reading »

The Power of ‘The List’: 4 Ways to Maximize Your Contact List

February 16, 2016

Contact_multichannelAs the smoke clears from another end-of-year fundraising season, fundraisers and nonprofit leaders are starting to assess how their campaigns and strategies worked.

While there are countless assets to every fundraising campaign, today I want to discuss what in my opinion is one of the most important – "the list."

The list I’m referring to is your database of names, email addresses, mailing addresses, and phone numbers – the repository of all the contact information you have on current, lapsed, and potential donors.

At the beginning of every new year, fundraisers and development professionals have a simple goal: develop a fundraising strategy that will yield more revenue for their organizations so they can fulfill their missions and scale their efforts to do more good. So, why should they worry about a list of contacts?

Take it from me. You can have the best mission, the best creative, the best design, and the best messaging in the world, but none of it will matter if your list isn't up to the job. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the "health" of your contact list is probably the single greatest factor in the success (or failure) of your next fundraising campaign.

That's right. So, don't waste another day wondering whether you need a new direct mail strategy or your messaging is off. Until you've taken these steps to strengthen your list, everything else is putting the cart before the horse:

Continue reading »

Ways to ‘Own’ a Movement

January 19, 2016

Blue_hand_claspAdvances in technology and the emergence of social media tools make it more possible than ever for social movements and causes to quickly spread far and wide (to go "viral" in the parlance of the moment). But how do you take a cause and transform it from an idea into something with universal appeal?

In the past, the concept of organizing, fundraising, and building a movement was focused on individuals "belonging" to a cause. In the twenty-first century, however, a successful movement isn't owned by an organization or single entity; it's owned by the people who comprise the movement itself. This idea speaks to the realities of modern constituent engagement theory and how people are perceived, whether as activists, social changemakers, supporters, or donors.

Importantly, in the research we’ve conducted, it's apparent that younger people view themselves as of a cause and not for a cause. It's a critical distinction. Young people tend not to belong to a cause but rather believe in a cause — and act accordingly.

Social movement builders who understand this understand that they have to do whatever is necessary to ensure that the qualities of purpose, authenticity, and self-actualization are embedded in their messaging when engaging supporters and would-be supporters. Without these qualities, individuals are unlikely to fully appreciate the potential of the movement or their own role in its ultimate success.

The shift I'm articulating is cultural and a function (I believe) of the instantaneous digital technologies that increasingly connect us to each other and the world. It's also something that social movement builders and leaders need to grasp in all its dimensions if they hope to be successful in harnessing the power of individuals to a common purpose. What do I mean by that? And what are the signs your cause or movement may be missing the boat?

Continue reading »

Is Lack of Emotion Hurting Your Fundraising?

December 15, 2015

Mr.-SpockHave you ever wondered, after the fact, why you donated to a particular cause or organization? You hadn't planned on it. It wasn't something that had been on your radar. So why did you give?

The answer, in a lot of cases, is because it made you feel good. That's how most of us feel when we do something to help others. It's a feeling that has been well documented in studies and, recently, by the New York Times.

As a fundraising consultant, I'm often asked by nonprofit leaders how to raise money for causes or organizations that aren't perceived to be urgent or especially compelling? "We aren't curing cancer here, and we don't have any cute dogs to show people."

What I tell them is to go back to the real reasons people give. As I've said elsewhere, donors usually can be categorized as either emotional/"thoughtless" givers or "thoughtful" givers.

The key question, in many cases, is whether you've set yourself up for fundraising failure by inadvertently removing the emotion from your brand identity? Here are four mistakes organizations often make that can rob their brand of emotion and hobble their fundraising:

1. Mistakenly assume that every person is an expert. This is one of the most common mistakes made by nonprofit marketers and fundraisers – and the one that can do the most damage to your emotion-driven fundraising strategies. When promoting a cause to the public, be careful not to elevate the language, tone, and spirit of your messaging to the point the "ask" gets lost or pushed to the background. Donors like simple stories told well and are always eager to hear how their donations will benefit someone (or something) else.

2. Ignore the emotional appeal of their brand. It's always interesting when the strategists in charge of a high-profile brand decide to "evolve" it from ultra-corporate and unemotional to informal and emotion-centered. In an effort to connect with consumers, brands such as Old Spice, Dominos, Dos Equis, and IBM all have refashioned their advertising and brand messaging so as to appear more "human." Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for marketing agencies that work with nonprofits to ignore the fact that emotion is an absolutely essential component of any nonprofit brand. Branding that favors graphics over pictures of real people, polished video over real or raw footage, and designs that are "cool" rather than "hot" all tend to rob a brand of much-needed emotion – and will drag down your fundraising results.

Continue reading »

This Giving Season, Make Sure You Stand Out

November 30, 2015

Pencil_standing-outDo you feel like you’ve been on the receiving end of the same marketing advice for years? Or that the outdated marketing tactics promoted by fundraising blogs, websites, and experts isn't relevant to your fundraising strategy – and might actually be killing your results?

Here's one I hear pretty often: "If you show them the logo three times, they’ll remember it."

Whenever someone offers advice like this, my first impulse is to ask: "Do you have a study you can point me to that offers evidence in support of that claim?" As you might imagine, the conversation usually turns pretty quickly to other subjects.

So what does it really take for your organization's brand to resonate and be remembered by donors at this time of year?

Here are five things that will help:

1. Stand for something. In general, donors care more about the cause or issue you represent than your organization. Which means you need to boldly promote what it is your organization stands for and then empower your audiences to support that mission. Your messaging should use emotion, clever wordcraft, and compelling images to separate your organization from all the other organizations out there. And remember: You can't be everything to everyone. Or, as my dad used to say, If you stand for everything, you stand for nothing.

2. Communicate with your donors throughout the process, not just at the end. Through our research, we've discovered that donors want to know what organizations are doing with the resources donated to them. In other words, it's imperative that you help individual donors understand how you're using their donations – and that you don't wait twelve months to tell them. As soon as you receive a donation, tell the donor about the person or project his or her gift will benefit, and then make an effort to communicate on a regular basis the change his or her support for your organization is helping to create.

Continue reading »

5 Reasons the Public Is Losing Interest in Your Cause

October 26, 2015

StethoscopeWhat can you do when interest in your cause begins to wane?

It's a scary question, and one that many fundraisers and nonprofit marketers will face at some point.

Perhaps you're already familiar with this scenario: Your fundraising results are okay, but the number of individual donors making gifts to your organization is beginning to decline. Your biggest donors may be giving a little more, but you're left to wonder why many others are giving less – or aren't giving at all.

This kind of situation is usually the result of bigger, deeper problems. So, before you rush to launch your next big campaign or event, take a step back and think long and hard about whether any of the things below could be causing you to lose traction when it comes to generating awareness for your cause.

1. You've become too focused on internal stakeholders. I've run into several nonprofit organizations that had cultivated a highly professional mentality over the years, causing leadership to take a blinkered approach to their organization's relationship with its stakeholders. Often their strategy involves putting highly experienced staff to work on problems with little input from the community. Unfortunately, an all-too-common outcome of this approach is the loss of external engagement, which is critical to your long-term sustainability.

If the number of closed-door meetings at your shop is going up while public engagement in your services is declining, it may be because you and your colleagues are shutting out the community you're supposed to be supporting. The solution: Always make sure your staff is looking beyond the walls of the organization and involving your constituents and outside stakeholders in its work. The more voices you allow to be heard around the table, the stronger your organization will be.

Continue reading »

Contributors

Quote of the Week

  • " [A] city must have a soul — a university, a great art or music school, a cathedral or a great mosque or temple, a great laboratory or scientific center, as well as the libraries and museums and galleries that bring past and present together. A city must be a place where groups of women and men are seeking and developing the highest things they know...."

    — Margaret Mead (1901-1978)

Subscribe to Philantopic

Contributors

Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Tags

Other Blogs